(Originally Written in Spring, 2003)
As I write this, the war in Iraq seems mostly over, but the question remains: what will come of this unfortunate conflict? And the next one, and the next? Why are these things happening? What is my role in promoting peace? What role can yoga teachers play?
During the 1991 Gulf War, Swami Kriyananda gave an answer:
“The light that is now coming into the planet with the start of Dwapara Yuga [the new age] is being battled by darkness. This new age is a time of heightened energy, which is our responsibility to turn toward good. That awakening of Spirit is not going to happen automatically.
“This is why we’ve been born — we’ve been attracted here at this time not only for ourselves, but to help bring God’s light out into the world.”
As yoga teachers, we can give students powerful tools to help them experience the light and bring it out into the world. However, darkness constantly tries to obscure that light. As soon as students leave our classes, they enter a maelstrom of negative magnetism: fear, tension, confusion, despair — all made even worse by media hysteria. So I’d like to suggest a few ways in which you can help your students counter that negative magnetism and stay in the light.
Strengthening the Aura
A strong aura is vital to countering negative magnetism. asanas can be helpful here; Energization and (for those who know it) maha mudra are even more powerful. In his book, Awaken to Superconsciousness, Swami Kriyananda gives many additional techniques for overcoming negative magnetism.
Here are two that you can share with students:
- Sit or stand with your arms at your sides. Mentally chant AUM as you circle them slowly out to the side and upward, palms up, until you join the palms high above the head. Use the magnetism of your hands and the power of your will to create an aura of upward-moving light around your body. Bring the hands slowly back down and do it again. Continue for as long as desired.
- Bring your palms together in front of you. Then move them out and around your body in a broad circle until the palms or fingers touch behind your back; then bring your palms together again in front. All the while, mentally chant, “AUM-TAT-SAT.” (The a’s in TAT-SAT are pronounced short, with an “uh” sound: “TUT-SUT.”) Repeat this front-to-back-to-front process at least three times. Afterward, feel yourself surrounded by that protective vibration. [This mantra refers to the Hindu equivalent of the Christian Trinity: AUM means the Cosmic Sound, Holy Ghost, or Divine Mother; TAT, the Kutashtha Chaitanya or Christ Consciousness, the consciousness of the Creator within creation; and SAT, the Father aspect of God, the Creative Spirit beyond all vibration.]
The Gayatri mantra is another powerful aid Chanting it gives a palpable feeling of inner strength and centeredness.
I also like to play Swami Kriyananda’s CD recording of it, Mantra, for long periods (even overnight), with my CD player on “repeat” and the volume low enough that it’s not a distraction. The mantra washes away negativity, fear, and restlessness. Try it.
There’s Strength in Numbers, Too
Another way to support your students is through facilitating satsang (“fellowship in truth”). When like-minded souls gather for spiritual — or even mundane — reasons, together they create a magnetic “bubble” that can protect and uplift them even after they disperse to their own homes.
As a teacher, you’re in a unique position to help this happen by organizing ways for students to gather outside of class: community service projects, spiritual discussions, meditations, peace prayer sessions, potlucks, or outings. The nature of the event is less important than the satsang itself.
People seeking the light need mutual reinforcement. This will support you, too, by the way. I’ve always seen that the people who help things like this happen are the ones who gain the most from it. If you’re not already part of such a group, I urge you to consider it. If you would like to form an Ananda Meditation Group — or just find out what that means or what it takes — please contact email [placeholder — supply right phone number and email address in a very good way.]
An Empowering Discovery
As the Iraq war approached, I prayed a lot for peace.
Sometimes I felt I was helping, but at other times I despaired: “This world is so big, and my prayers seem so hopelessly puny and unrealistic. Maybe I should just leave it all to the great masters [whom Paramhansa Yogananda said are guiding this world, despite appearances to the contrary].”
But then it came to me: “What if, instead of general peace prayers, I focus where I can be more effective? I’ll pray for Ananda Yoga® teachers! They want to be channels for peace, and we already have a connection. Maybe that will help me be more focused and fruitful than in my general prayers.”
I began strongly to visualize all of them full of joy and strength, radiating light powerfully in all directions — to students, friends, family, coworkers, strangers. As I strove to support them in the light, and see you as dynamic instruments for peace, my prayers began to feel more meaningful and impactful. It’s been very empowering and inspiring. I encourage you to do this for your students as well as for other yoga teachers, ministers — anyone who actively seeks to be a channel. What a wonderful way to help them spread the light — and help them stay protected!
We Can Do More Than We Might Think
Also, I’ve come to see several reasons why we should never think that our prayers for peace are too small. First, the job is not as big as it seems.
As Swami Kriyananda said, divine light is already pouring into this world. We don’t need to create it — that would be unrealistic! — we need only help channel it. Yogananda said that God always works through instruments. God does not impose His light on the world, but rather seeks willing souls who will help it manifest. That’s our great opportunity.
Second, a person who serves the light has more power than one who spreads darkness. No one consciously seeks to bring darkness; everyone seeks the light. It’s only confusion, misperception, and ungoverned desire that causes some to bring darkness. Because darkness is not his goal, merely his error, such a person’s efforts don’t have nearly as much impact as another’s conscious, focused prayer on behalf of the light. Let that inspire you next time you pray for peace. Third, miracles can happen through those who continue praying dynamically, even in the face of contrary appearances.
I’d like to share an amazing story from The Power of Positive Thinking, a classic book by Norman Vincent Peale. After years of happiness, a marriage was floundering, and the husband was having an affair. Desperate to save her marriage, the wife sought advice from her minister, who urged her to (1) stop her constant criticism and nagging, which even she acknowledged was driving her husband away, and (2) strongly pray/visualize him at home with her. Immediately, the woman began to follow the advice, changing her behavior completely — no small thing, I’m sure.
When her husband asked for a divorce, with uncharacteristic calmness that greatly surprised her husband, she merely asked for a three-month waiting period. He agreed.
In addition, every day she strongly visualized her husband at home with her, doing all the things they used to enjoy together. She steadfastly refused to let “reality” diminish the power of her visualization. Even at night when he was who-knows-where, she would undauntedly visualize him at home with her. Talk about a warrior spirit!
In time, she began to see him — in the flesh — at home more and more, and finally all the time. After three months, when she reminded him that the delay was over, he replied, “Nonsense, I couldn’t bear to be without you.”
A miracle? A coincidence? I think the explanation is that conscious intention — both to change ourselves and to pray for others — is much stronger than unconscious confusion.
It Takes More Than Just Peaceful Thoughts
Together, let’s apply the same principle to prayers for world peace. If enough people unceasingly project the vibrations of peace — not allowing the “reality” of outward strife to deter them — this world can change. Of course, to send vibrations of peace, people must experience that peace; mere thoughts of peace are not enough.
As yoga teachers, we have the tools to help our students have that experience. They will in turn radiate that peace to others, whether they consciously try to do so or not. It will happen all the more if we pray for them — and still more if they, too, offer themselves as instruments for peace. All this not only builds world peace, but also protects us from negative magnetism, for remember: we cannot both give and receive at the same time. When praying for others, we are on the wavelength of giving, of harmony and healing; we can’t absorb negative magnetism because we’re simply not on its wavelength.
The Instrument is Blessed…
Yogananda often said, “The instrument is blessed by that which flows through it.” Whatever we express leaves its imprint on our consciousness — for better or for worse. So if we actively channel peace into this world, we in turn will be blessed with greater inner peace.
Kriyananda also emphasizes that, to have a positive effect on this world, our thoughts, words, and actions must come from a place of inner peace. When we live from inner peace, our very lives become prayers for peace. On the other hand, violent actions, words of hatred, or negative thoughts — even in support of a righteous cause — can never lead to peace and harmony; they lead only to further rounds of violence and hatred. In Jesus’ words, “An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit, nor can a good tree bring forth evil fruit.”
After 9/11, Swami Kriyananda pointed out:
“The real war today is not military. It is a conflict between faith and the repudiation of all faith, between love and hatred. What will win this war is if millions of people offer themselves up as channels of God’s truth and justice. Each of us has the power to pray to God: ‘Lord, use me! Let me be a channel of Your love to all.’
“Divine Love is a force. If we understand that by loving rightly we express God’s love, He will be able, through us, to uplift the world’s consciousness. United with God’s will, we can help mightily in the struggle between the forces of light and darkness. By praying and acting rightly, we may be instrumental in ushering in a period of international and inter-religious peace and understanding.”
Yes, as Paramhansa Yogananda said, the great masters are guiding this world. Yet even they need willing human instruments through whom they can work. May every yoga teacher be such an instrument. Thank you for all that you do for a better, more peaceful world.